A new generation of 4K/Ultra HD smartphones is expected to hit the market in 2015, competing with the 2K, “Quad HD” smartphones that currently comprise the premium end of the market. The higher resolution offered by 4K/Ultra HD mobile devices is “more about marketing and differentiation than user experience given current content availability,” according to new market research from ABI Research, which also noted that 4K/Ultra HD will place new demands on mobile network providers.

“While some content owners and broadcasters have or are preparing to launch 4K programming, video resolution delivered to mobile devices will continue to lag behind screen pixel densities,” ABI Senior Analyst Michael Inouye was quoted in a press release.

4K Mobile Device Sales Trends
“While mobile device components, such as processor, memory and in some cases batteries, are gearing up to handle 4K, network and infrastructure elements remain challenging. Key video services like several under the UltraViolet umbrella, for instance, still largely distribute content to mobile devices in SD. Content protection and data utilization concerns are part of the issue, but consumers also have not demanded higher resolution video in adequate numbers for services to respond.”

Early inroads for 4K/Ultra HD mobile video are likely to come from user-generated content (UGC), according to ABI. The popularity of mobile video capture devices, such as GoPro broadcasting, indicates there is demand for high resolution UGC. LTE Broadcast is another avenue being explored for next-generation video broadcasting. Both rely on HEVC (high efficiency video coding), “but are initially unlikely to push broadcast resolution,” ABI says.

Commented ABI Practice Director Sam Rosen, “OTT video services will carefully weigh the costs of 4K delivery, the impact on viewing on mobile devices, and the brand halo high resolution services can bring. OTT services will focus first on 4K delivery to Smart TVs, with HD to mobile devices.

“New connections like wired MHL 3.0 and wireless 802.11ad can help position mobile devices as a hub for streaming high quality video and gaming to TVs. Qualcomm’s acquisition of Wilocity and push of 802.11ad could further encourage OTT companies and TV manufacturers to embrace the technology and bring high resolution video to TVs via mobile devices.”

These findings come from ABI Research’s Mobile, Multiscreen, and Cloud Video Delivery Market Research.

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